Sunday, August 23, 2009

Baptize young, before leaving the house

Mike Dever made an interesting point about Baptism:

Oh, a lot of things. I mean, spiritually, people’s affluence, people wanting to be served, consumers moving to urban areas where churches are close enough to where they compete for members, pastors not being taught this. I’m sure any real abuses that happen, and, of course, there were, anytime sinners like you and me are involved, any time abuses happen in church discipline, I’m sure those were repeated endlessly. And so I’m sure those stories would have been used against practicing it at all, because to practice it at all would have been in some way to have been involved in some kind of abuse of it. Now, I’m sure it’s just a combination of things like that. Also I think the theology changed and churches became more and more man-centered. I think people more and more misunderstood what it really meant to be converted. I think our evangelistic practices watered down the gospel. I think we started taking responses very quickly. We started baptizing people at a much younger age.

You know, I’ve been reading a lot of Baptist biographies in the last couple of years and noting baptismal ages. And if you look at all the Baptist leaders in the nineteenth century, they were all baptized at 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21. It’s when they get out of the home, or they have their first job, that’s when they’re baptized. Baptists these days baptize children at 12, or at even 8, or younger. It’s very hard. I mean, I’ve got kids. It’s hard to look at the kids who are pretty obedient, love their parents, and want to have the approval of their parents, it’s hard to know whether or not they’re really born again. I mean, of course they’re being sincere when they tell you something, but people can be sincere and be wrong, and I think we’ve just lost a lot of that subtlety of judgment. It’s not been encouraged among the pastors in our churches.
So what is your feeling. Is it a good idea to baptize before kids leave the house or not?


Anonymous said...

Nope. There's nothing wrong with inviting kids and teens to participate or make a formal declaration of belief, but full entry as an adult should be made, well, as an adult. Preferably out of college and supporting themselves.

Young adults who leave home get to see their denomination as practiced by people not their parents, not their town. No matter what your church doctrine says, a 12-year-old is not a full, adult member, with full, adult responsibilities in the church (and at work and in the community), and certainly isn't responsible for his own religious involvement. The young adult who joins, is.

Isn't that a more significant commitment?

Qohelet said...

My Catholic wife insisted that our month old baby cannot leave the house without being baptised first. If he ever got in an accident in the car, he would end up in limbo, which my wife told me isn't a pleasant place. So we got our son baptised.

CD-Host said...

Well for people who believe in infant baptism (paedobaptism), like Catholics no problem. Dever believes in credobaptism, the question about 12 year olds was directed at them.

J. L. Watts said...

It think it has to be a decision for the child, when they can understand what they are actually doing. No repeating what I say back to me. Baptism is no magically glue to Christianity, and should not be seen as this.

Icy Mt. said...

@Qohelet: That's funny! The Catholic church backed off of that limbo stuff years ago. At the prep for my 17-year-old's baptism, the priest made that clear.

Baptized or not, it is a very good idea to give your kids a walking example of Christianity and encourage them to follow it before they leave the house. A firm grounding in scripture and active participation in a body of Christ aren't bad ideas either.

For God's sake, don't bore your kids with the Bible and Church so that the first thing they want to do when they leave the house is never set foot in a church or crack a bible again. Your baptism is a one off event and shouldn't overshadow Christ's commandments to continue to love one another and spread His message.

Jack Meyers said...

The LDS church baptizes children at age 8, simultaneously claiming that only a person who fully understands the covenants they are making can be baptized. It's a position that has long elicited a snort from me. I remember being 8. I would have joined your church if you had given me enough candy. I thought the Jehovah's Witnesses were pretty nifty when I was 8, only because they were the only ones who had ever taught me about Jesus, and I'm sure I would have joined them if my parents had allowed it. There is no way in hell all or most 8 year-olds understand what it is to covenant their allegiance to the LDS church at that age. Some Mormons will tell me, "Well, they can wait longer if the parents feel the children are not ready," but very few parents do this, and since children who are baptized at age 9 or higher are considered converts and forced to take the missionary discussions first, the system isn't exactly set up in a way that welcomes letting your children wait. It's little more than slightly delayed paedobaptism in my book.

I was baptized in the Nazarene church as an infant and requested to be baptized again by immersion at age 12. There was certainly more about Christian discipleship I could have understood at the time, but I wasn't raised in a Christian household where I was pressured to be baptized. I made the request all by myself, and I knew enough to know that Jesus had died for me and I wanted to give my life for Him.

I'm not saying it's impossible for an 8 year-old child to understand what baptism means, but saying all or most children are going to understand it by that age is just incredible to me. I think 12 is a safer minimum age to be baptized, and no children should be pressured into baptism due to age instead of desire and understanding.

CD-Host said...

Jack --

I agree with you on the LDS being essentially paedo baptism, especially given that it is expected at a particular age. I find the Nazarene church's use of believers and infant baptism to be an interesting position. I come down firmly on believer's baptism but I do understand the problem of thinking of children of members as not being "citizens" in the religion they are practicing. Credobaptists need a term like "catechumens" for their kids since they do expect them to have some connection with Christianity.

Jack Meyers said...

The Nazarene church used to be pretty heavily into infant baptism, but lately there's been a movement toward credobaptism with infant dedication services instead. They'll still practice either as needed though.

I visited an Evangelical Covenant Church last week which does "both" believer's and infant baptism, meaning they'll do whatever the parent wants and won't pressure anyone into infant baptism if the parent wants to wait. I blogged about it here. I just visited Willow Creek North Shore today, and they mandate 12 as the minimum age for baptism.

I think catechumen is a beautiful word. Credobaptists often have infant dedication services, but it'd be nice if we had some sort of ritual between dedication and baptism which kids could undergo, something they can do when they're old enough to remember and thereon look forward to baptism.

CD-Host said...

I replied to you over the there. ECC sounds good though I don't have any personal experience with them. I agree with the series of steps approach with baptism being one of the later rather than one of the earlier steps.

Qohelet said...

Speaking of infant baptism, here in the Philippines it's all but assumed that every child in a Christian household must be baptized as infants. So much so that some services (child insurance, preschool enrollment) requires the child's baptismal certificate in addition to the birth certificate. With our predominantly Catholic population, it makes some sense.

CD-Host said...

Qohelet --

What do they use the additional certificates for? What function do they serve over and above the state issued ones?

Qohelet said...

I have no clue. It's always been a requirement for a lot of services.

Ian McGrady said...

My Dad's first kid by a different marriage is Jewish by his mom (of course). Dad brought the kid home and baptized him in the bathroom sink.

Later he was talking with the child's grandparents and they were discussing the religious upbringing of the child. "Of course the child is going to be raised Jewish," the grandparents said.

"Well, that's fine. But I just baptized him in the sink."


"Yeah! I did!" he said.


CD-Host said...

That's a funny story. I think an infant baptism requires a public profession by the parents?